Class 8 hydrogen truck competition disrupted by Canada-UK partnership

Vancouver-based Loop Energy, a developer and manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cell solutions, has unveiled its signature 120 kW fuel cell system for use in the commercial mobility space. This important new product has the potential to revolutionize commercial transportation by equating fuel costs with diesel. The 120 kW fuel cell system, the S1200, represents Loop Energy’s second generation of its eFlow bipolar plate technology and provides an additional 20% efficiency gain. The S1200 can deliver up to 60% net system efficiency while maintaining overall high fuel economy across a wide range of power demands.

In the words of Loop Energy President and CEO Ben Nyland, “The core of Loop’s eFlow technology is a signature trapezoidal plate design. Unlike older fuel cell systems, this design provides improved uniform current density across the active area and increases gas velocity through the plate to deliver superior performance and water management.”

At the same time, London-based electric and hydrogen truck OEM Tevva unveiled its 19t Class 8 hydrogen electric truck designed for the European market. Tevva’s 19t hydrogen-electric model benefits from the company’s revolutionary dual energy system, a combination of lithium-ion batteries and a Loop’ Energy hydrogen fuel cell range extender. The truck is expected to have a range of up to 400 km. The partnership between Tevva and Loop Energy was originally based on the 7.5-ton, Class 5, commercial vans. Now the companies are poised to deliver disruptive offerings in the heavy duty class, before many established OEMs struggle to compete internally with diesel. Tevva is well poised to compete with Hyundai’s fuel cell XCIENT line of trucks to be deployed in Switzerland in 2020. XCIENT is powered by two 95 kW fuel cells. It seems that companies, which are not tied to their customers and traditions, can lead the market in offering clean technologies.

Although Tevva was covered in a recent article, learning about Loop Energy has been a long-standing goal. What follows is a profile of Loop Energy based on a conversation with Ben Nyland.

The company was founded around 2000 in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where it is headquartered, research and manufacturing. In 2021, it received 19 fuel cell orders from 10 global customers and expected production to triple each year to 180 by 2023. However, as interest in clean transportation is booming, 60 fuel cells were sold in June, resulting in 100 and 500 fuel cell orders respectively in 2022. and 2023. This is essentially a 25-fold growth as hydrogen becomes a strategic fuel due to the energy challenges in many markets.

Loop Energy recently set up a manufacturing facility north of Shanghai to advance its Chinese market; a support and distribution center in London to provide a solid footing for its largest customer Tevva and the European market; and a sales office in Milan. The company relies on 120 employees worldwide, a third of whom are dedicated to manufacturing. Historically, Loop Energy has focused on assembling components into the final product on the manufacturing side; but recently it had started vertically integrating the production of flow plates (or bipolar plates) for its new line of fuel cells. The flow plate design is the most important intellectual property of the company.

To successfully introduce its products to potential customers, Loop energy has established a separate internal group, Global Technical Services, with responsibilities to work with sales to understand the customer’s technical requirements to deliver a product. that meets those expectations. This group also carries out the Customer Adoption Cycle which consists of three phases. The first phase begins with the deployment of a single unit and has the customer test on a “bench” or evaluate in a mule vehicle. The Global Technical Services group works very closely with the customer to ensure a successful implementation. In Tevva’s case, Loop won over three other finalists with integration into the mule vehicle that ran in a day and a half. The second phase focuses on scaling up with about ten vehicles. It is also a commercial commitment. The success story in phase two is the bus company Skywell New Energy Vehicles Corp in China, where 10 fuel cells were integrated over the course of two weeks and became operational as a city bus in May 2021. lockdown in China, all support was provided remotely. The third phase is commercial implementation, such as Tevva’s, where the company has decided to establish a distribution center to both grow the business and provide dedicated support to the first commercial customer in phase three.

As the fuel cell market evolves, new products and innovations are also growing at Loop Energy. It now offers products with its second-generation eFlow technology, which consists of narrowing channels that improve power generation across the fuel cell surface while accelerating the flow of reactants and products such as water vapor. During the fuel cell reaction on the cathode side, oxygen is removed from the air and the remaining nitrogen absorbs the water vapor generated from oxygen and hydrogen. The situation on the anode side of the fuel cell, where hydrogen reacts, is slightly different. Hydrogen there is a dead end under pressure and escapes over the membrane on the cathode side. As a result of the eFlow innovation, efficiency is improved by up to 20%, resulting in millions of dollars in fuel cost savings when operating the fleet.

The second generation bipolar plate design forms the basis of the new 120 kW platform. It continues to improve system efficiency up to 60% and keep overall efficiency higher over a wider performance range, while still maintaining over 40% at full 120 kW. With this platform, Loop Energy can also go to 200-300 kW for future customers and for more demanding implementations.

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